“The snow is piling up on the patio umbrella out there,” my wife Kara said a few days ago, as the first serious snowfall of the winter was coming down. “We ought to go outside and crank it down. The umbrella’s not made to hold that kind of weight.”
I sat up to look out the window; the umbrella indeed had so much snow on it that it looked like a giant white mushroom sprouting up in the backyard. Why was the umbrella still open and out on the patio in the middle of December? Your guess is as good as mine, especially if your guess is that I’m lazy.
“We don’t feel like going outside right now,” I said, pulling the covers up over my head. “It’ll be fine. We’ll put it down when I go out to shovel a little later.”
About five minutes after that pronouncement, I heard the crack from the backyard as our patio umbrella gave up the ghost. If an umbrella falls in the backyard and its owner hears it, it makes the sound of about a hundred dollars being yanked out of his pocket. Being lazy is awfully expensive sometimes.
So I stumbled out of bed, put on my jacket and went out to survey the damage. Noticing the whip of the wind across my legs, I came back inside, put some pants on, then went back out.
This winter sure didn’t give us much of a warm-up. We went straight from shorts weather in November to shin-deep snow a few weeks later. It’s already game time and we haven’t even had practice yet.
I trudged around, collecting the pieces of the umbrella, which had snapped right at the crank casing, flinging plastic pieces into and under the snow, where most will be found again when I mow over them in five months. After running out of swear words, I gave up on the umbrella and made my way over to the garage to dust off my snow shovel.
Our driveway is barely long enough to park three cars end-to-end, but when ten inches of snow are on the ground and I’m standing in the garage armed with a giant spoon, it looks big enough to host the Iditarod.
Using a shovel to move snow around seems so primitive, like just one step above a monkey using a rock to crack open a coconut. I’d much prefer to figure out a way for an internal combustion engine to do the work for me, but none have offered to do it for free so far. I guess that’s why people have kids.
Two years ago, when we were getting ready for our first winter as homeowners, Kara and I went to the hardware store to pick up some snow shovels. The store had about a dozen different models to choose from, with awesome names like “The Bulldozer” and “Avalanche.” I settled on a little blue number with a bent handle. Apparently, bending the handle of a snow shovel makes it ergonomic, which doubles the price. But still, the bent handle is a wonderful advancement in shoveling technology, because it truly does make it easier on your back not to have all that cash in your back pocket.
When Kara saw that I’d found a shovel I liked, she smiled and headed towards the register.
“Whoa, hold on.” I said. “Don’t we need a second one?”
“What?” she said, still walking away from the shovels.
“Don’t we need two shovels?” I asked. “I thought I might come out there and help you occasionally.”
So Kara begrudgingly came back and picked out a shovel that she liked. In retrospect, we could have saved ourselves twenty bucks.
If Mike Todd is still alive after Kara reads that last sentence, you can reach him online at email@example.com.